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SOMERSET CO. SANITARY v. MALONE, consol. with MALONE v. SOMERSET

In 2007, appellant and cross-appellee Somerset County Sanitary District, Inc. (“the District”) completed an expansion of its sewerage services in the town of Princess Anne. Appellee and cross-appellant Malone Investments, LLC (“Malone”), 1 making plans for a residential subdivision in Princess Anne, sought, as part of the construction approval process, inclusion in the District’s sewer and water services.

Malone received an initial allocation for water and sewer service from the District and paid the assessment for the property in 2008. However, a dispute erupted between the District and Malone when the firm asserted that its property had been wrongly assessed for sewage services and improperly connected to the District’s sewerage system. This dispute resulted in litigation over the entire sewerage expansion project and Malone’s financial responsibilities as a potential water and sewage customer.

After a bench trial, the Circuit Court for Somerset County held that the District’s assessment method was “neither proper nor constitutional.” Despite this finding, Malone was not entitled to a refund of the assessment it paid in 2008, because it voluntarily paid the sum due. The court also found that the District “improper[ly]” connected Malone’s property to the sewerage system and enjoined the District from collecting the costs of the connection until Malone began to use the system. In a later proceeding, the court awarded Malone attorney’s fees of $270,869.50.

The District and Malone each appealed. The issues they raise on appeal call into question the validity of the sewer connection to Malone’s property, the constitutionality of the District’s assessment method, Malone’s entitlement to a refund of the 2008 assessment, and the award of attorney’s fees to Malone.

Read the unreported opinion.